Rakesh Roshan: Was sure I had cancer even before reports came
In his first interview after life's biggest battle, Rakesh Roshan on his ordeal and finding support in his daughter, who also beat cancer
In January, Hrithik Roshan sent shockwaves in the industry when he revealed on social media that his filmmaker father Rakesh Roshan had been diagnosed with early-stage squamous cell carcinoma (throat cancer) and was to undergo surgery later that day. Nine months since, Roshan — though frail — is a picture of calm and positivity, his battle with the Big C behind him.
Opening up for the first time since his diagnosis, the veteran filmmaker tells mid-day that it started last September when he noticed a seemingly harmless blister below his tongue. His first thought — "I hope it isn't cancer." After all, the family had faced the demon in 2014 when his daughter Sunaina beat cervical cancer. "I immediately called my family doctor home. He said it was nothing to worry about and gave me some medicines to treat the blister," he recounts. The chapter was forgotten until three months later when he visited Hinduja Hospital to meet a friend. "On a lark, I headed to the ENT specialist. The first thing he told me was to get a biopsy done. I came home and told my family that though the reports would come in four days, I was 100 per cent sure that I had cancer."
The director with his family post surgery
A series of meetings with top oncologists in the city brought his worst fears to life. "They described traumatic procedures [that involved] cutting my tongue and taking part of the skin on my wrist to replace the surface on my tongue. Thankfully, Hrithik got in touch with Dr Jatin P Shah (who holds The Elliott W Strong chair at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre) who told us that nothing of the sort was required. He would make an incision on the neck to remove the node where the cancer had spread."
If coming to terms with the disease was tough, the recovery after the surgery would be a test of his mental and physical strength. However, the filmmaker credits his fit lifestyle for holding him in good stead — two days after his operation at the HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Roshan was home-bound.
"I went to the office the next day," he laughs, adding that he had resolved not to be defeated by the physical exhaustion that the subsequent cycles of chemotherapy brought on. "I had to undergo three cycles of chemo and 45 days of radiation. I became physically weak and would often feel giddy, but I tried to remain mentally strong. I would go to the office because I thought lying down on the bed all day would depress me. That's when negative thoughts come to you. Instead, you work out, meet people and take every day as it comes. There were days when I would get disturbed or have mood swings because of the chemo. Even then, I told myself that this is a part of the recovery."
Sunaina Roshan and Rakesh Roshan
On March 20, six months since the ordeal began, Roshan completed his treatment. Even as he describes the process as a test of one's endurance — "because it was throat cancer, it was difficult to even drink water post the surgery" — he chooses to maintain an optimistic stance. "The word 'cancer' sounds scary, but it's not. It can be treated. I knew if I harboured negativity, it wouldn't help me recover. So, I never let myself lose hope."
His family was his rock, with daughter Sunaina serving as his source of inspiration. "I got my strength from her. I used to remember how positive she was even though she was [undergoing] chemotherapy and losing her hair. As a family, we have gone through a lot of trauma. Sunaina battled cancer, Hrithik went through brain surgery, I was shot at, and had to get a bypass, my wife Pinky had a heart problem. But we are standing tall and strong, supporting each other."
Born on September 6, 1949, Rakesh Roshan embarked on his cinematic journey in 1967 and made his acting debut with Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani, which released in 1970. However, The film, which starred Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy and Om Prakash in lead roles, hadn't performed well at the Box Office. (All photos/mid-day archives)
In picture: Rakesh Roshan with Neetu Singh and Rishi Kapoor in 'Khel Khel Mein', one of Bollywood's best suspense thrillers.
Rakesh Roshan went on to entertain the audience as an actor with films like Khatta Meetha, Khel Khel Mein and Khoobsurat.
You will be surprised to know Rakesh Roshan appeared in 84 films throughout from the 1970s to 1989.
As an actor, Rakesh Roshan was mostly known for his supporting roles in big-budget films, which mostly starred Sanjeev Kumar and Rajesh Khanna as its lead face.
Rakesh Roshan ventured into filmmaking with Khudgarz in 1987.
In picture: Roshan with Shah Rukh Khan and Johnny Lever on the sets of Karan Arjun.
Rakesh Roshan soon achieved fame for directing films with titles beginning with the letter 'K'. He directed Khoon Bhari Maang (1988), Kishen Kanhaiya (1990), Karan Arjun (1995), Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (2000), Koi... Mil Gaya (2003) and the superhero Krrish franchise (2006—2013).
In picture: Rakesh with Hrithik and brother Rajesh.
Rakesh Roshan clocked in his 50th year in the industry in 2017. The filmmaker said that now he felt satisfied with how his life has turned out. He was in no hurry to churn out films year-after-year and thus, chose instead to work at a leisurely pace, with the knowledge that he knew when it was time to 'move on'.
In picture: Filmmaker Rakesh Roshan on sets of one of his films.
In a candid chat with mid-day, Rakesh Roshan had told, "When I realised my films (as an actor) weren't working, I knew it's time to move over to the other side. I started off as a producer and went on to direct films. There has been no looking back ever since."
In picture: Rakesh Roshan in his trademark hat.
Nineteen years ago, filmmaker Rakesh Roshan launched his son, Hrithik Roshan, with Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, and the film, inarguably, turned him into a star overnight. Since then, the director has only made films with his son in the lead and insists that's how it will always be.
In picture: Rakesh and his music director brother Rajesh Roshan.
"It is impossible for me to visualise a film without Hrithik, because I always keep him in mind and write my stories. I also feel people will laugh that I have a superstar at home and I am working with somebody else. The best part of working with him is that if I tell him to be on set at 6 am, he will be there," Rakesh Roshan told mid-day in an interview.
In picture: The Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai trio: Rakesh, Hrithik and Ameesha Patel.
Currently, Rakesh Rohan has been keeping away from the limelight and hitting the gym to shed excess weight.
In picture: Rakesh and son Hrithik.
Rakesh Roshan's love for fitness, one might assume, is newfound. But, he credits his athletic upbringing for keeping health a priority.
In picture: Rakesh Roshan and Hrithik on the sets of Krrish 2.
Speaking exclusively to mid-day, Rakesh Roshan had revealed that, "I have been exercising for many years. I stayed in a boarding school, where, I was into horse riding, hockey, swimming and basketball. I was always athletic."
In picture: Rakesh with Randhir Kapoor, Rekha and Jeetendra.
Rakesh Roshan also spilled the beans on the culture practiced by his family, saying, "Today, my entire family focuses on being physically fit. In fact, all of us work out every day. Based on our schedule, we either train together, or separately with our individual trainers. We have a mini gym in the house and have a lot of fun working out together."
In picture: Rakesh with wife Pinky and Barbara Mori.
Rakesh Roshan has no plans to return to the big screen, however, he wishes to act in a Hollywood venture. Said Roshan, "If I return to films, it will be with a Hollywood outing, because in the West, I can be signed on as a young hero and get paired opposite a pretty girl, but, in Bollywood, that won't happen."
In picture: Rakesh Roshan with son Hrithik Roshan and ex-daughter-in-law Sussanne Khan.
Let's take a look at few more candid pictures of Rakesh Roshan
Rakesh Roshan and Pinky Roshan hand-in-hand. Pinky comes from a filmy background. She is the daughter of popular filmmaker J. Om Prakash. The couple has a son, Hrithik Roshan and a daughter, Sunaina.
The Roshan family on the sets of Rendezvous with Simi Garewal.
Rakesh with Hrithik and Barbara Mori at Cannes, during the release of their film Kites, which Roshan senior had produced. The film bombed at the Box Office.
Rakesh Roshan at an awards function in Macau.
We wish Rakesh Roshan a very happy birthday!
P.S. We are waiting for Krrish 4!
As Rakesh Roshan turns 70 on September 6, we look back at his Bollywood journey from being an actor to turning a filmmaker and other interesting facts that you might not know, through a collection of pictures!
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